The NCAA has come forward to defend their actions in handling both Auburn and Ohio State. The NCAA denied that they played favorites in their treatment of the two universities for alleged violations.
Wednesday the NCAA broke their silence concerning the five players on Ohio State who sold items given to them in order to garner benefits, discounts or cash as well as their treatment of Auburn in-light of Cecil Newton soliciting Mississippi State for money in order to get his son Cam to attend.
In the event of Cam Newton, the NCAA stated that he did not know anything about his father's actions. The University said that since no money actually exchanged hands there was nothing wrong with Cecil asking, especially since he did not let his son know. That led many sports journalists to question whether or not Cecil approached Auburn to garner funds for his son to come there, an allegation that Auburn has denied. Cam has come forward and said that he knew nothing of his father's actions, which was good enough for the NCAA. Questions were then raised as to whether the NCAA failed to act because Auburn was in the national championship game. On Wednesday the NCAA clarified their Cam Newton ruling saying, "Put simply, had Cam Newton's father or a third party actually received money or benefits for his recruitment, Cam Newton would have been declared ineligible regardless of his lack of knowledge."
The Ohio State issue had an actual transfer of goods for services or cash. Initially the Athletic Director stated that Terrelle Pryor did it to get money for his family, only later it turned out that he had bartered his Big-10 Championship Ring as well as his gold pants for beating Michigan for a tattoo, raising the question on Charlotte's 610 AM as to how getting a tattoo helped his family. In total the NCAA cited five players for suspension, starting with the first five games of the 2011 season, including Pryor. Question was raised as to why the players were not suspended for the Allstate Sugar Bowl?
Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan admitted to the Columbus Dispatch that he actually encouraged the University to keep the five players in the bowl game.
Hoolahan was quoted as saying, "I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year's game, we would greatly appreciate it. That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I'm extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution."
The NCAA come out on their website Wednesday citing that money was not a factor in their decision. Ohio State University tried to take the fall by saying that they had not properly educated their players in the NCAA's rules. Still, most of the players can actually make the jump to the NFL in April's draft (assuming there is one and a season next year) avoiding the five game suspension. While it might appear that the five players leaving early for the NFL would hurt the University more losing the players completely, it would allow the team to focus on new talent and not be juggling their line-up. In the end the punishment handed down by the NCAA could have minimal to no impact on Ohio State or the players involved.
In their website posting Wednesday the NCAA said, "Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA."
The quote of Hoolahan appears to fly in the face of the NCAA's comments as he apparently was trying to make sure the best talent was on the field for his bowl game. Earlier in the 2010 season the NCAA forced a Georgia player to sit immediately when he sold a jersey, also citing money for his family. This suspension was pointed as the reason for the Bulldog's slow start. The University of North Carolina has been under investigation since early summer, at least to the public, and they took the action of penalizing themselves at the start of the season benching various players throughout the beginning part of the season.
On the surface the NCAA suspended the Georgia player immediately, while postponing the punishment for the Ohio State players, but the NCAA through their statement are implying that they are totally different violations. They both involved selling merchandise that athletes were given, a clear violation of NCAA rules. The NCAA's rule book claims that anyone associated with an athlete caught tyring to get payment for playing is a violation regardless of whether or not the athlete has knowledge, but apparently that rule allegedly doesn't apply in the case of Heisman Trophy winner in the National Championship Game.